Father Mathew always brightened my day and always wanted to make sure everything was well in my life, as I am sure he did for everyone he loved. Receiving his phone calls on Saturday mornings when he was busy working away at his campus office were always a blessing. His calls always began with an apology followed by an inquiry of how to do something or another on his computer. The apology was never needed, but Father Mathew, as much of a gentleman that he was, felt it was. His calls always brought a smile to my face. If I missed a call and couldn't get a hold of him afterwards, I'd feel terrible. My family, although most never met Father Mathew, loved him too. They loved him because he was part of our daily conversations and a big part of my life. In the 30 years of my life, I have only lost two loves. Father Mathew was one.
“He took so much with him when he left.” Gilead
Fr. Mathew cared deeply about Guadalupe Regional Middle School and was always looking for ways to help. He would surprise us by stopping by the office and bringing items for the school to use. It was clear that GRMS was on his mind, and it was always lovely to sit and chat with him. He had a clear perspective on Brownsville and the needs of our community.
Fr. Mathew had his personal influence on everybody he met whether they knew it or not. Always with a smile, an 'abraso,' and 'so good to see ya.' He once told me he had never met a bad person. And if I make it to 90 (oh sure), I hope I have his energy and his love of life. He loved his birthday celebrations at UTB and the courtyard full of his friends. But then, of course, he considered everyone his friend.
The footprint you left will be with us for a long time. God bless you!
I first met Father Mathew at UTB. I was starting a new student organization, Students for Peace & Change, and we were to hold our first-ever meeting in the Scorpion Cafe. No one showed up. Discouraged, I was about to leave when an older gentleman came up to me and introduced himself as Armand. He said that he did not have time to stay, but just wanted to meet me and let me know that he was glad that there would be a social justice organization on campus. Several months later, engaged to my future wife and after having learned that Armand was in fact a priest, we were trying to reserve the Immaculate Conception for our ceremony. We were not receiving an answer, so I called the only phone number that I had for Fr. Mathew to see if perhaps he could help, and the receptionist at the cathedral answered! Not only did he help us out, Fr. Mathew presided over our marriage! He was such a gentle and compassionate soul. He will forever be missed.
Father Mathew was always there in good times, like the birth of my son, and during bad times on the death of my mom and my daughter. But I will always remember him walking into the Emergency Entrance of the hospital in the middle of the night wearing his warmers and tennis shoes to come be with my son, Michael and me until the medical crisis was over. His prayers and presence made all the difference that night and all through our lives. God sent us an angel in 1975, and Father Mathew is still our angel!
Father Armand made it to his 90th birthday. He was dapper, fit, and passionately alive. He could have retired to any pleasant spot in the country, but he stayed in the Rio Grande Valley, embracing its heat and its challenges. For years, each month, a group of us would eat lunch together. After settling into the booth, he would order a Budweiser remarking each time that he had no office that he had to get off to after lunch (thus the beer) and that there was no place he would rather be, than here with friends (thus, again, the beer). The other two of us did have offices to get back to, and so we would order water and iced tea, and then sit back and drink in the goodness of someone who had lived a long life well. Invariably, Armand would offer his clear opinions on the sad moral state of the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Lakers, and, most recently, the Miami Heat. “Watching sports is therapeutic for me, you know?” he would say. But those were games, and he knew them to be such. His real passion was the struggle for justice, and he had little patience for the folly of politics—and the foolishness of people who couldn’t be bothered with reading the signs of the times. As a priest, he had offered many a blessing, amongst them, at least 10 years’ worth of blessings that took the form of a campaign to teach children the power of the vote. As with the best blessings, he offered much more than words, as he pushed, cajoled, begged, played the clown and shared with the community his own sense of the urgent need to engage citizens in the forming of the future. His blessing for these children was a constant invitation to share in his belief in the inevitability of a just society. Armand would not put aside his conviction that the best place to plant the seed of that hope was with children. Fr. Armand went to sleep last night, still annoyed that the Spurs had lost to the Heat (I got an email laying that out to me). I am pretty sure that as he settled in for the night, his passions for justice and goodness had him reviewing the news of the day. He would not have been happy with the Senate’s plan to arm the border to the teeth even as they dithered with the futures of eleven million of our undocumented neighbors. He would not have been happy with the idea of yet another war in the Middle East. I am also sure that he closed his eyes with the peaceful smile of someone who has fought the good fight—and knows that he has God on his side. And, surely, God rested peacefully as well, knowing that God has Armand on God’s side.
Father Armand is my mother-in-law's cousin. In 1991, we spent a glorious week with him in the Grand Tetons, where he officiated at my sister-in-law's wedding. From that point on, we talked a couple times each year by phone, exchanged cards and letters. I've never met a man I thought more worthy of sainthood. He and his life will continue to be an inspiration to me. While he never met my twin sons, his prayers for them have made a difference. There is a void in the world with the knowledge of his passing; but the world is a better place because of his time with us.